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By Carolyn Williams

Lengthy sooner than the satirical comedy of The day-by-day convey and The Colbert file, the comedian operas of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan have been the most popular send-ups of the day's political and cultural obsessions. Gilbert and Sullivan's productions continuously rose to the extent of social statement, regardless of being impertinent, absurd, or inane. a few audience may perhaps take them immediately, yet what seems like sexism or stereotype was once really a smart technique of critique. Parody used to be a robust weapon within the tradition wars of late-nineteenth-century England, and with defiantly in-your-face sophistication, Gilbert and Sullivan proved that pop culture may be intellectually in addition to politically challenging.Carolyn Williams underscores Gilbert and Sullivan's inventive and acute figuring out of cultural formations. Her specific standpoint indicates how nervousness drives the stricken brain within the Lord Chancellor's "Nightmare tune" in Iolanthe and is vividly discovered within the sexual and fiscal phraseology of the song's patter lyrics. the trendy physique seems to be automatic and performative within the "Junction music" in Thespis, looking ahead to Charlie Chaplin's manufacturing unit employee in sleek occasions. Williams additionally illuminates using magic in The Sorcerer, the parody of nautical melodrama in H.M.S. Pinafore, the ridicule of Victorian aesthetic and idyllic poetry in persistence, the autoethnography of The Mikado, the position of gender in Trial by means of Jury, and the subject of illegitimacy in The Pirates of Penzance. together with her provocative reinterpretation of those artists and their paintings, Williams recasts our figuring out of creativity within the past due 19th century. (7/1/11)

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Extra resources for Gilbert and Sullivan: Gender, Genre, Parody

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32 Most important, the Chorus takes part in the dramatic action, and it thereby performs a critical parody of the conventions of grand opera. Gilbert’s first opera burlesque, Dulcamara! or, The Little Duck and the Great Quack (1866), makes this intention clear, simultaneously lampooning both the hackneyed conventions of opera and the conventions of their burlesque parody, such as rhyming couplets and songs set to familiar music: You’re in a village during harvest time, Where all the humblest peasants talk in rhyme, And sing about their pleasures and their cares In parodies of all the well-known airs.

Gender is treated generically, as a conventional set of performances of social action and as a set of stereotypes that have been formulated in historical time and can now be easily recognized. 39 The realistic sets, along with Gilbert’s famously deadpan style of direction, enable the trick whereby the most absurd antics are presented as if they were absolutely realistic. indd 20 9/22/10 8:26 AM are perceived to represent an ideological or a social reality that is, in fact, absurd. As if the nineteenth-century social-problem play had been turned inside out, the Savoy operas twist serious social problems into a graspable knot of absurdity, all the while acting as if everything were perfectly normal; they expose the absurdity inherent in ideological contradictions.

The allusion recalls the unruly gypsies of Il trovatore while making fun of the Pirates: Come, friends, who plough the sea, â•… Truce to navigation, â•… Take another station; Let’s vary piracee With a little burglaree! This near-citation of the “Anvil Chorus” does not make fun of Verdi, but uses the higher operatic form to invest the Pirates with a sort of overweening boisterous boastfulness. indd 24 9/22/10 8:26 AM Similarly, Sullivan’s parodies of the music of Handel employ this mockheroic strategy, most often exaggerating the grandeur of ridiculous characters, such as the humorously self-important, casually corrupt Learned Judge in Trial by Jury, who is introduced with Handelian pomp, or Ida’s brothers, whose song, “This helmet, I suppose,” makes fun of their inability to tolerate the conventionally masculine costume of the warrior.

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